Bernie Ecclestone appears to have changed horses when it comes to tipping his favourite for F1 world championship honours.

On the eve of the opening round of the 2014 season in Melbourne, the 83-year old says he is now putting his money on fellow Briton Lewis Hamilton to win both the first race and the overall title.

The change of heart at least keeps Bernie's money in the Mercedes camp, but will no doubt come as a blow for Nico Rosberg, who he tipped as his choice for champion less than a month ago.

Related Articles

With the Three Pointed Star dominating in pre-season testing, neither of Ecclestone's picks comes as a great surprise, and makes a change from him backing Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel for glory. Ecclestone explains away his latest change of heart by pointing to Hamilton's previous success in the top flight.

"Lewis Hamilton will win the first race, and he will also be world champion this year because he has the best car and has already been world champion," Ecclestone told Germany's Sport Bild, before adding that he still viewed Vettel as the best driver on the grid.

"[Sebastian] can best adapt to the new rules - when his car gives him the chance," the Briton said cuttingly, referring to the problems that have limited the running achieved by Red Bull and Renault in the three pre-season tests.

Ecclestone's early assessment of Rosberg as potential champion came after the first test of the winter, where the German enjoyed the better of the running in the Mercedes camp.

"Anything can happen under the new regulations," Ecclestone told IANS in early February, "I would not want to comment much on what could happen this season [but], the way things worked out at Jerez, Mercedes seem best prepared to succeed with Rosberg winning the title."

Indeed, Mercedes as engine supplier appears best poised to succeed, with McLaren, Williams and Force India all appearing towards the top of the timesheets. While Felipe Massa is quietly attracting interest at bookmakers, Ecclestone admitted that he would be happy to see one of F1's midfield regulars strike it rich in 2014.

"I would love to see Force India win a race," he said at the time, "and I am confident they can achieve that. They might not be as strong as the Mercedes but, as their customers, Force India should progress farther up the grid."

The Australian Grand Prix gets underway in Melbourne on Friday.